Meet Fleece & Thank You’s Founder and Executive Director, Nicholas Kristock
What were you like as a child?
I was stubborn and inquisitive. I wondered about a lot of things. I always asked many questions about life mainly because I was curious.
When did you first realize you had a passion for giving?
In high school we were required to do service hours and I always really enjoyed it. I knew I wanted to make it a living in college when I started my first non-profit.
Who are some of your greatest mentors that helped you make Fleece & Thank You a reality?
My Dad, Bryn Finley, Bruce Wilden, Mary Ohannessian Stonor Saunders, Adam Alonso, and Leif Elsmo. Whenever I have a problem, one person out of this group is someone I call right away. They help me problem solve. The most important quality in mentors is that they never hand feed you answers. They always ask the right questions to steer me in the right direction.
Can you paint a picture in words of what it feels like to deliver blankets to a child in the hospital?
Yes I can. You can tell when we give someone a blanket that we are their first piece of good news during the day. It is a powerful moment to know you are one of their first positive experiences in a day. When these children and families are constantly receiving bad news, a smile says a million words.
Was there ever a time you thought you were in way over your head?
Yes. When I had 3,000 blankets in my parents house and I had friends coming over throughout the day and night to help bag them. I had parents tripping over blankets. Blanket piles would fall over on my family members. We were also constantly losing pieces of our lives in them.
Is there anything along this journey of making your dream a reality that has come easy to you?
The easiest part has been the team members that came along the way. I started meeting people and they just bought in. The only easy part has been the support I have received simply because people were excited about the cause. I never had to spend long hours on the phone convincing people to help.
When was a time you realized Fleece & Thank You’s mission was truly making an impact on children in the hospital?
The first video we ever got back was from a girl named Alisha. She was 16 and in the hospital for Diabetic shock. She sent a video back to Joey and Hailey at 11:00 P.M. to thank them for her cupcake blanket. She said that cupcakes are her favorite thing in the world, but she can’t have them right now because of her diabetes.
If you had to pick one thing in your life you worked the hardest for, what would it be?
Building an organization that allows me to achieve my dream and make a living.
How many hours do you sleep?
No comment.I don’t know not many.
Was there ever a dream or goal you let go of?
I don’t think so. That is a boring answer. I think my plans have worked out perfectly and I am chasing the dreams I am suppose to be chasing.
Who are some of the most influential people you have met through your journey with Fleece & Thank You?
Other than Morgan Garmo and Bryce Goulah, I would say Morgan’s Dad Mark because he has a giving heart. He opened up his business and gave up his virtual golf room so we could make blankets. What man gives up a virtual golf room? The second we need something he is there for us. The Kattoula power couple made up for Nancy and Fayez are awesome too. Nancy just bought in right away and she would do anything for us. Our board member, Lorron James because he is truly a rare breed. It is really hard to find people who are up in business, are nice, and want to help a bunch of young adults start a non-profit. Finally, Ashley Rahi who is a volunteer that would do anything for us. I think if I called her and said she needed to move to Novi she probably would.
What inspired you to start Fleece & Thank You?
I met a little girl named Sophie and I wanted to help kids in her situation. There is a service that provides every homeless person a meal but there is no service that provides sick children a colorful fleece blanket.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of Fleece & Thank You?
Other than the massive amounts of families we are able to be there for, it would be connecting volunteers at events to other people in different areas of life. People from such different worlds are together and tying knots on a blanket that will change a kids day.
What has been one of your greatest hurdle working with Fleece & Thank You?
Juggling so many roles and things that need to get done when you are starting an organization. Most organizations start with funders but we are just some knock out kids who decided to do it. We literally are starting from the ground.
What makes Fleece & Thank You’s mission unique?
There is no other service that ever existed that guarantees blankets to hospitals. There is no other service out there that connects the maker to the receipt the way we do.
What advice do you have for someone trying to start a non-profit?
Run. Kidding don’t do that. Watch my hero round table talk. My advice would be to go and live the problem. If you do not live the problem any issue you encounter will make you want to quite.
Did your friends and family support you chasing Fleece & Thank You?
Absolutely, I had full support of all friends and family.
How do you take time for yourself to recharge?
I go make blankets. I play hockey, I hangout with friends, and loved ones. I also love reading. I read lots of things.
What do you consider your biggest failure that has brought you to this success?
For a long period of time I was a 25 year old unemployed guy living at home with his parents. On paper some people would say I was a failure having no income for 12 months but it had to be done. It was essential to where we are now.
What advice do you think you will have for yourself in 5/10 years?
It for sure is going to be to stop and smell the roses. Take time to celebrate the victories in life and see how far you’ve come. Someone gave me this advice. You are going to wish you celebrated the little victories of the day. I think that will be true.
What is your favorite bit of inspiration?
Tasha from Mott is a big one. She just loved the blankets. She has been the most vocal patient who told us what these blankets mean. She wanted to work for us so badly but she didn’t make it. It is inspiring to see how much they meant to her. Although she will not have the opportunity to work for us, we can work for her.